Feb. 27, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

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Kentucky Republican Celebrates 'Bourbon Barrel of Compromise'

Lawmakers from across the Capitol poured into the Willard Hotel Tuesday to honor the unique flavor bourbon has contributed to Congress. The feel-good presser was the brainchild of the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association; the former provided historical context while the latter kept the predominantly Southern crowd in good spirits. Kentucky Republican and proud member of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus Andy Barr addressed the crowd at the event, discussing the history of Henry Clay and his significance to Kentucky.

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WH: Prisoners Executed Went Through Jordanian Justice System

One day after Jordan executed two prisoners in response to an Islamic State video showing one of its pilots being burned alive, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest refused to criticize the response, saying the prisoners went through the Jordanian justice system. "I don't have a specific reaction to the news," Earnest said in response to a question by CNN White House Correspondent Michelle Kosinski. "They'd gone through the Jordanian justice system, they'd been convicted, they were sentenced to death, they were serving time on death row and their executions were carried out overnight. So I'd refer you to the Jordanian authorities for additional information about that."

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Senator: Government Should Stay Out of the Bathroom

Freshman Sen. Thom Tillis on Monday wrapped up a discussion on regulatory reform by explaining why the government should not require coffee shop employees to wash their hands after using the bathroom, using a conversation he had with an opponent at Starbucks a few years ago to illustrate his point. “I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says, ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after they use the restroom,’” Tillis said. “The market will take care of that.”

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Former Lawmaker Recounts Start of Congressional Email

Former Rep. Jim Coyne called in to WAMU's The Kojo Nnamdi Show on Tuesday to reminisce about the early stages of computer technology on Capitol Hill to bring a "historical perspective" to the discussion. "Back in 1982 I set up the first email system for folks, constituents, to contact their congressman, 33 years ago," Coyne said. "So I heard a comment earlier that Congress was a little slow to embrace new technology, but we did our best back in the early ‘80s to open up.” The Kojo Nnamdi Show is partnering with Roll Call, WAMU's Metro Connection and the Folger Shakespeare Library for a weeklong stint on Capitol Hill. Tune in from 12-2 p.m. this week for more.

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Reid: Republicans More Afraid of 'DREAMers' Than ISIS

Minority Leader Harry Reid slammed Republicans on Tuesday ahead of a vote barring the Department of Homeland Security from implementing President Barack Obama's immigration executive orders and following the apparent burning of a Jordanian hostage by the Islamic State. Reid said Republicans are more afraid of "DREAMers" than of ISIS while demanding a vote on a "clean" DHS spending bill.

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McConnell: 'I'm a Big Fan of Vaccinations'

Amid a national debate over vaccinations following a measles outbreak that began in California, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out in support of vaccinations at his weekly news conference Tuesday. "As a victim of polio myself, I'm a big fan of vaccinations and if I were a parent who had a child who might be subject to getting any particular disease, I would come down on the side of vaccination," McConnell said.

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McConnell on ISIS Execution: 'War on Terror' Not Over

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened his weekly news conference Tuesday discussing the apparent burning of a Jordanian hostage by the Islamic State, which the Kentucky Republican said reinforced the need for a strategy against the terrorist group. "It reminds us again that these people are not going away," McConnell said. "No matter how many times you declare the 'War on Terror' over, it isn't over until the terrorists relent."

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Pelosi: GOP 'Baying at the Moon' on Obamacare Repeal Vote

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed House Republicans ahead of a 56th vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, saying lawmakers were "baying at the moon." "The Affordable Care Act will continue to rank up there with Social Security, with Medicare, a third pillar of economic and health security for the American people," Pelosi said. "And again, by the way, the clock is ticking on the bill for Homeland Security."

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House GOP Ratchets Up Pressure on Immigration Enforcement

The House Judiciary Committee kicked off a Republican push on immigration bills Tuesday with witnesses who gave President Barack Obama’s enforcement policies unflattering descriptions, such as “permanent dysfunction” and “an intentional and flagrant disregard of the law.” The hearing came on the same day that members of the Senate failed to clear a procedural hurdle on a House-passed appropriations bill that would nullify past executive actions on immigration, underlining Republicans' opposition to White House on both sides of the Capitol.

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Republican Defends 'Honor' of Texas After Hearing Spat

One day after Rep. Alcee L. Hastings messed with Texas calling it a "crazy" state, Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, offered a “defense of the state of Texas" on the House floor. “There’s been a lot of talk about Texas lately — not just last night, but lately,” Sessions said. “I stand in defense of Texas, although Texas — I don’t think — really needs much defense."

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Harry Reid Returns to the Floor After Injury

When a scarred and bandaged Minority Leader Harry Reid appeared on the Senate floor for his first speech of the year, the chamber’s new majority leader and Reid’s own top deputy slipped and briefly called him the “majority leader.” Aside from his appearance, Reid was his old self, blasting Republicans over the Keystone XL pipeline legislation that occupied the chamber’s first month, as well as the GOP-led effort to stop funding for President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration as part of the current Homeland Security spending debate. “We should pass a Homeland Security bill with no strings attached to it. That’s where we’re going to wind up,” Reid said.

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Florida Democrat Calls State of Texas 'Crazy'

A Rules Committee hearing on a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act got heated Monday after Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., called the state of Texas "crazy" and later refused to apologize following testimony from Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas. "I don't know about in your state, which I think is a crazy state to begin with, and I mean that just as I said it," Hastings said. After Burgess asked for an apology, Hastings replied: "You will wait until Hell freezes over, for me to say anything in an apology. I would apologize to you, if I was directing my comments to you. I was commenting about the state that you happened to be a resident of."

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Obama Announces Fiscal 2016 Budget

President Barack Obama’s opening salvo in this year’s budget wars with the new Republican Congress aims to shift the conversation away from four years of austerity. He received a predictably frosty reception. Obama’s $4.066 trillion budget would unshackle discretionary spending from the legislative tourniquet known as the sequester. That allows about a 7 percent increase in defense and domestic discretionary programs — or $74 billion. “I want to work with Congress to replace mindless austerity with smart investments,” Obama said Monday at the Department of Homeland Security as he announced his fiscal 2016 budget. “I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security and bad for our growth."

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Biden to House Democrats: ‘Double Down’

As a House Democratic retreat obsessed with messaging on the middle class came to a close Friday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. implored his congressional colleagues to not run from the White House’s economic record. “Let’s resolve to double down,” Biden told House Democrats assembled in the Sheraton ballroom. “Let’s resolve to double down right now.” He told Democrats they shouldn’t apologize for actions like the stimulus, the automotive industry bailout or the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which he called “probably the least popular vote we’ve had to take.” Biden suggested that, while these programs might be unpopular, they were wildly successful.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Jan. 26, 2015

Lawmakers spent the week calling one another by the wrong name, professing their love for Gouda and discussing their Valentine's Day plans.

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McCain to Protesters: 'Get Out of Here You Low Life Scum'

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain lashed out Thursday at Code Pink protesters who were calling for former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to be arrested for war crimes. McCain, a Vietnam War veteran, called the demonstration "outrageous" before directly telling a protester: "Get out of here you low-life scum.”

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WH Draws Distinction Between Taliban, al-Qaida

One day after White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said the Taliban was not a terrorist group, but rather an "armed insurgency," Press Secretary Josh Earnest found himself clarifying that position to ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl at the daily White House news conference Thursday. Earnest said while the Taliban does carry out tactics "akin to terrorism," there is a difference between al-Qaida and the Taliban. "The Taliban has resorted to terror tactics, but those terror tactics have principally been focused on Afghanistan," Earnest said. "Al-Qaida is a terrorist organization that has aspirations that extend beyond just the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaida and their affiliates around the globe have sought to carry out terror attacks against Americans and American interests all around the globe.”

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What You Missed: Loretta Lynch's Confirmation Hearing

Torture, marijuana and President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration were among the range of topics covered during Wednesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general. Roll Call wraps up key moments from the nearly eight-hour hearing into four minutes.

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Jim McGovern Joins Sips & Suppers Trio at Rayburn Reception

Massachusetts Democrat and House Hunger Caucus Chairman Jim McGovern welcomes "Sips & Suppers" co-founders Alice Waters, Joan Nathan and José Andrés to the halls of Congress, following their whirlwind weekend of raising money for local food charities D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha's Table.

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Murkowski: WH Proposed Wilderness Regulations 'Unacceptable'

Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Tuesday again slammed an Interior Department proposal to block areas in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from future oil and gas exploration, a plan Murkowski called "unacceptable" and said violated the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). "What this administration is doing is moving forward into essentially de facto wilderness," Murkowski said. "What the president is doing is not unlike what we are seeing with the selective interpretation of the Affordable Care Act or immigration, where he is unilaterally acting. He is ignoring the law from 1980, ANILCA."

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McConnell: DHS Spending Bill Up Next in Senate

The Senate will turn to a potentially bruising battle over immigration, once it dispatches with its debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. But Senate Republicans are spelling out little about their plans for handling the contentious Department of Homeland Security spending bill with only a month to go before its funding expires. “All I can tell you right now is we’re going to the DHS bill after we finish Keystone. The procedure by which we deal with that will be determined later,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

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Protestors Disrupt Senate Hearing on Trade Promotion Authority

Protesters disrupted a Senate Finance Committee hearing on President Barack Obama's trade policy Tuesday. Three protesters were arrested and others were escorted out of the hearing room by Capitol Police.

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Senate Dems Delay Push for Iran Sanctions

Make that one more veto threat President Barack Obama probably won’t have to carry out: Senate Democrats are abandoning efforts to pass an Iran sanctions bill over its nuclear program while talks continue, at least until March 24. Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey announced during a Senate hearing Tuesday that he and other Senate Democrats would not support bringing the sanctions bill he co-sponsored to the floor until that date. It comes after Menendez, in particular, has been harshly critical of the White House and the president over the handling of the Iran talks, and amid a brouhaha over the decision by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to snub the president and invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to the Congress without prior notification to the White House.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Jan. 19, 2015

Members spent a short week in Congress learning about drones, women's health and the difference between one trillion and one thousand billion.

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The Art of John Boehner Clapping

During Tuesday's State of the Union address, it often wasn't about how many times Speaker John A. Boehner clapped so much as how he did it. HOH is here to document the many styles of the Boehner clap.

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Reid Opines on '#Deflategate'

Toward the end of his first media availability since his New Year's Day injury, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid weighed in on reports that 11 of the New England Patriots' 12 game balls were under-inflated, saying he didn't know why it was allowed to happen. "As far as how much weight's in a football, as far as I know, I can't believe the National Football League, with the billions of dollars they make, couldn't at least determine how much air should be in a football ... why it should be left up to the teams," Reid said.

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Harry Reid Reflects on Life of Wendell Ford

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid reflected on the life of the late former Sen. Wendell Ford, calling Ford a "fine man" during a news conference in Reid's Capitol office suite. "As a new senator I met with him,” Reid said. “He said ‘I am from Kentucky, I drink Kentucky bourbon, and I smoke Kentucky cigarettes all the time’ … He was a fine man, people in Kentucky love him, as they should.”

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Harry Reid 'Intending to Run,' Expects Swift Recovery

The venue was different, and his face was bruised and bandaged, but Harry Reid was still Harry Reid. With an American and Nevada flag in the background, along with a bald eagle and a box of "Search Light" matches on the wall over his shoulder, Reid held court with reporters in a meeting room in his Capitol office suite for a news conference that could've taken place any Tuesday afternoon near the Senate's iconic Ohio Clock. Of course, many of the questions were about the minority leader's medical prognosis and any effect it might have on his decision about making a run for another six years in the Senate in 2016. The Nevada Democrat expects to be back to full-time work soon, and intends to run for re-election.

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Pelosi Accuses Boehner of 'Hubris'

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dinged Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday for not consulting with Democrats or the White House on the decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress. "It's out of order in terms of the protocol," Pelosi said of the invite. Boehner apparently did not consult with the White House on the joint session, nor did he make Democratic leadership aware of the Netanyahu invite. Pelosi said her understanding was that the joint session — which was originally slated for Feb. 11 but has since been moved to March 3 — would take place within two weeks of the Israeli elections on March 17. "I don't think that's appropriate for any country," the California Democrat said.

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Pelosi on Abortions: Health of Mother 'Preeminent'

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi found herself defending abortion rights at her weekly news conference Thursday, one day after House Republicans pulled a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, saying it is not up to politicians in Washington to decide an issue the Supreme Court has ruled on. "The life and the health of the mother is what is preeminent in when a decision is made about women's reproductive health," Pelosi said. "It isn't an ideological fight, it's a personal health issue. And as a mother of five in six years, I have great standing on this issue, great understanding of it, more than my colleagues."

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James Morhard Survived the Plane Crash that Killed Sen. Ted Stevens

Deputy Senate SAA James W. Morhard had a harrowing near-death experience in 2010, as a passenger on then-Sen. Ted Stevens’ plane. He narrowly survived a crash in the mountains of Alaska that killed the Republican senator, his former boss, and four others. McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, visited Morhard, a longtime Senate aide, in the hospital before when they arrived for Stevens’ funeral. “As much as you know the outer persona, there is a warmness to this man that people don’t see,” Morhard said, recalling how the couple sat with him and held his hand. “You never forget,” he said. “And, you know, I hope I can give back — as Frank does, too — to this place and also [to] the majority leader.”

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Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Larkin on His 9/11 Heroics

On Sept. 11, 2001, Frank J. Larkin was a supervisor in the Secret Service’s New York Field Office, located in the World Trade Center. The Senate sergeant-at-arms was later awarded a Medal of Valor for his life-saving actions at Ground Zero. “When the first tower collapsed, I was actually moving to the center square between the towers,” Larkin told CQ Roll Call during a recent interview in his office on the first floor of the Capitol. “I was leading a group of folks with the intention of getting some folks that had been injured out of that center plaza area. At the same time, we were dodging, unfortunately, folks who were jumping to their deaths, you know, witnessing that, which is something you just never forget.” Larkin was initially reported missing, and suffered severe respiratory injuries, coughing up blood during the three months he spent leading recovery efforts before being transferred back to Washington.

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The 31 Times Republicans Applauded Obama During SOTU

Amid the myriad applause lines during Tuesday's State of the Union address, Republican lawmakers put two hands together to applaud President Barack Obama 31 times.

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Ted Cruz Slips Up in Unedited SOTU Response

In a video posted and later removed from Sen. Ted Cruz’s YouTube channel, the Texas Republican slammed President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address, but not before hitting the reset button. “The president tried to say his policies are lifting the middle class and yet today, median incomes have stagnated for over a decade,” Cruz said before cutting himself off: “Ah, let me start over.”

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GOP Senators Outline Areas Ripe for Bipartisanship Ahead of SOTU

Senate Republicans pushed back on an Obama administration tax proposal while outlining areas ripe for bipartisanship at their weekly news conference Tuesday and ahead of President Barack Obama's sixth State of the Union address. "It's important to remember, it's not unusual to have divided government. We've had it a lot," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "What I hope to hear from the president tonight is an emphasis on things that we can agree on, things that give us a chance to actually advance the agenda of the American people."

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Late Congressman's Wife Inherits a Nightmare

CQ Roll Call went with Beverly Young to St. Petersburg College to see what remained of the late congressman's archival memorabilia. Video by Warren Rojas.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Jan. 12, 2015

Even with party retreats last week, members still found time to recognize illegitimate children, debate NFL rules and bake cookies in the House chamber.

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Roll Call Presents: The 2015 State of the Union Promo

Join Roll Call at 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20 for the 2015 State of the Union, streaming live at rollcall.com and featuring member interviews as well as analysis from Roll Call editors and reporters.

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Democrat Laments Abortion Bill Co-Sponsoring Debacle

Co-sponsoring a bill in Congress doesn't really mean all that much. But — maybe — it ought to mean a member has agreed to sign on, and will actually sign. At least, that's the argument Washington Democrat Adam Smith made on the House floor Wednesday. Smith took to the House podium to lambaste co-sponsorship practices after he was accidentally listed as a co-signer of GOP legislation, authored by Tennessee Republican Diane Black, that would prohibit certain funds to abortion clinics. Smith says he never consented to being listed as a co-sponsor — and first found out about the mishap after a pro-life group started praising him. "I just rise about a particular issue that happened to me, and I'm sure has happened to other members that you might not be aware of," Smith said on the floor Wednesday. "Other members can sign you on to a piece of legislation without your consent."

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Boehner Quotes Obama 22 Times on Immigration Action

In a last-minute effort urging lawmakers to support a Homeland Security spending bill blocking President Barack Obama's immigration orders, Speaker John A. Boehner, in a rare floor speech, quoted 22 examples of Obama saying he did not have the authority to take action to change immigration laws during a seven-minute speech. "Today I rise, and the House rises, to support and defend our constitution," Boehner said. "We do not take this action lightly, but simply, there is no alternative. ... This executive overreach is an affront to the rule of law and to the constitution itself." Lawmakers voted 236-191 to pass the spending measure.

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McConnell Highlights Items Ripe for Compromise

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opened his weekly news conference Tuesday touting agenda items ready for "bipartisan progress" following an earlier meeting with the White House, including Trade Promotion Authority, cybersecurity and an Authorization for Use of Military Force in the fight against the Islamic State.

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21 Guantánamo Protesters Arrested in the Capitol

Nearly two dozen protesters from "Witness Against Torture," a group dedicated to closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, were arrested in the Capitol Building Monday afternoon, after demonstrating in the Senate gallery and the Capitol Visitor Center. According to the U.S. Capitol Police, 21 protesters were arrested Monday: 11 in the Senate and 10 in the CVC. All of them were arrested for demonstrating in an area where it is unlawful to demonstrate. The protesters in the Senate gallery were arrested after causing a disturbance as Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., was speaking on the floor. The protesters began yelling, "U.S. torture, it's official! Prosecute now!" during his speech, halting action on the floor for about a minute and a half. Freshman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was presiding at the time.

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Congressional Hits and Misses: Week of Jan. 5, 2015

Lawmakers kicked off 2015 lobbying for 7-Elevens, sparing grandmas from purgatory and taking their talents to South Beach.

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Boehner Not Ruling Out Gas Tax Increase

A renewed push by some Democrats for an increase in the federal gas tax to replenish the Highway Trust Fund drew a frosty reception Thursday from Speaker John A. Boehner — though the Ohio Republican stopped short of ruling the idea out. Both Boehner and the top-ranking Democrat in the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were asked Thursday about an increase in the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax after the National Republican Campaign Committee sought to make a gas tax increase a political liability for Democrats. "I’ve never voted to raise the gas tax. Funding the highway bill is critically important, it is a priority for this year. How we will fund it — we’re going to have to work our way through it,” Boehner said at his weekly news conference.

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Boehner Fires Back, Says He's Not 'Spineless'

Speaker John A. Boehner took to the press conference podium Thursday to set the record straight on a line of attack he seems to be hearing from conservatives: That he has no spine. "It does pain me to be described as 'spineless' or a 'squish,'" a somewhat-jocular Boehner said. "I tell you what pains me the most is when they describe me as 'the establishment,'" Boehner said. The Ohio Republican described himself as "the most anti-establishment speaker we've ever had," and he enumerated some of his credentials for the title.

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Pelosi Open to Increase in Gas Tax

Amid reports of Republicans being open to increasing the gas tax, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was cautiously supportive of raising the tax to pay for transportation spending while pushing back against a "show-biz" proposal of lowering income taxes in exchange. At her weekly news conference Thursday, Pelosi said the decrease in gasoline prices is already a tax break for consumers. "I do think that if there's ever going to be an opportunity to raise the gas tax the time when gas prices are so low, oil prices are so low, is the time to do it," Pelosi said. The tax, which has not been raised since 1993, provides most of the funding for the Highway Trust Fund.

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Pelosi Reacts to Boxer Retirement Announcement

Sen. Barbara Boxer's announcement Thursday that she will not run for re-election in 2016 took fellow California Democrat and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi by surprise. Upon learning the news at her weekly news conference, Pelosi stood in silence, collected herself and praised Boxer as “one of the most unselfish politicians I have ever known.” ”She called me and said she wanted to talk to me personally,” Pelosi said. “I just thought she wanted to have dinner tonight.”

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Barbara Boxer to Retire

California Sen. Barbara Boxer announced Thursday she will not run for re-election in 2016, opening up an attractive seat for ambitious fellow Democrats. Boxer made the announcement in a video posted to her campaign website, in which she conducted a mock interview with her grandson Zach. "I am never going to retire. The work is too important. But I will not be running for the Senate in 2016," she said.

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McConnell: Congress Will Fund Department of Homeland Security

While discussing how the Senate would combat President Barack Obama's immigration actions and the impact of Wednesday's terrorist attack in Paris, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said "at the end of the day" Congress would fund the Department of Homeland Security, which runs out of money on Feb. 28. The DHS, which was funded by a short-term continuing resolution in December, has become the focal point for congressional Republicans trying to halt Obama's executive orders on immigration issued in 2014.

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McConnell Doubles Down on Keystone, Says Obama Will Not Set Agenda

Senate GOP leadership reaffirmed its commitment to voting on a bill to build the Keystone XL pipeline during a weekly news conference Wednesday, adding that President Barack Obama's veto threat on Keystone legislation could give someone "whiplash." "It seems with every new day, we have a new veto threat from the president," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "I think it's interesting to note, this is exactly the same bill that was before the Senate last month, when the then-majority was trying to save Sen. [Mary L.] Landrieu in a runoff, and I don't recall the president mentioning at that point he would veto the bill.”

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